A Sister’s Harrowing Story of Survival from the Streets of Long Island to the Farms of Idaho
Kirkus Reviews, August 2, 2016.
The follow-up to Calcaterra’s bestselling Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island (2013).In her second book, the author teams up with her youngest sister, Maloney, to tell the story of their alcoholic and psychologically damaged mother, Cookie. Their two older sisters managed to leave the family through marriage or moving in with friends; Calcaterra sought legal emancipation at age 14. However, because Maloney and her brother, Norm, were still young children, they were forced to stay with Cookie, who “only wanted [them] for the welfare checks.” When she was “too busy” drinking and carousing to look after Maloney and her brother, the pair went into a foster care home, where they were abused. Cookie eventually kidnapped her children and took them to live with an assortment of men she picked up in bars or on the street. To escape legal problems and being “put in the slammer,” Cookie and her children left for Idaho. There they stayed with friends until Cookie was caught stealing from her hosts. Life only began to stabilize for Maloney and Norm after Cookie finally settled down with Clyde, the Mormon husband of another woman. As Maloney entered adolescence, she endured unwanted sexual advances from Clyde, more beatings from her mother, and virtual enslavement as a worker on the farm where they lived. School and the hope of reunion with her sisters, who did whatever they could to help, saved Maloney from a temporary slide into alcohol and drugs and occasional thoughts of suicide. In the end, she not only broke free of Cookie, but also found the happiness that had eluded her throughout her youth. As engrossing as Etched in Sand, this book is a testament to Maloney’s remarkable resilience and a moving tribute to the unbreakable bond of love she shared with her siblings. Courageous and emotionally intense.